Composting in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. has taken a few steps over the past year to catch up with the composting craze. The District now offers places to drop off your at-home compost, and also has some services to make it even easier.

"In total, the District generates somewhere between 166,000 and 238,000 tons of organic waste annually."

My husband and I produce a lot of waste. We use way too many paper towels, we've always got veggie scraps and I'm always throwing out tea bags. I thought, "There's got to be a way that we can produce less waste and benefit our local community."

We live in a pretty small, 700-square-foot condo, and the thought of trying to compost and recycle only screams "more space" to me. I decided to sign up for Compost Cab, a weekly service that provides you with the bin and removes your compostables on an assigned day each week. It couldn't be easier to compost at home.

Compost Cab takes away your compostables and gives them to local urban farms, gardens, nonprofits and government agencies to build healthier, more sustainable food systems, starting with the soil. Not only are my husband and I reducing our household waste, but we're also helping produce soil for our local community.

You can also receive some of this soil and use it in a home garden or yard, if you have one. Another small perk of the Compost Cab bin is that it is rodent-proof (hello, D.C. rat population)—a bonus for anyone worried about leaving food scraps on their porch for a period of time.

What if you're not really into paying someone to come pick up your compostables? That's also OK! The District has introduced a Food Waste Drop-Off Program. All you have to do is compost at home, and then take your scraps to a designated drop-off point each weekend. Compost Cab says that for every four families that compost with Compost Cab, we keep a ton of organics (approx. 2,000 pounds of what most people still consider trash) out of landfills each year.

If you want to take it one step further, D.C. also offers a Community Compost Coop Network. Each cooperative can handle around 100 active composters, or about 1 ton of material a month. You'll learn a little more about community composting, as well as meet a network of other composters. Your responsibilities can include training others and actually processing the compostables.

The big question: what can you compost in D.C.'s programs? If it grows, it goes. That means fruits, vegetables, peels, seeds, coffee grounds, tea leaves, nuts, etc. No meat or dairy are accepted in the current program. Calling all environmental champions—do you want to be a part of D.C.'s composting efforts?

Learn more about home composting